Pull up a chair and gather round, folks. In the spirit of the summer vacation season, I am going to tell you all a scary story every bit as frightening as the one about the killer with a hook for a hand at the campsite. Remember that one? No? Doesn’t matter, because this tale is just as terrifying.

My kind-hearted friend Dianne had been dating this guy for about a month or so. They had only just started sleeping together. He was intense, she realizes now, but she thought he was essentially a decent, thoughtful, if somewhat quirky guy. A single mother of a 12-year-old girl, this was her first foray into dating since a very painful marital breakup three years ago. She was looking for fun and frolic, nothing serious, nothing heavy.

It was in that spirit that she invited her new guy to come to Spain with a bunch of us. Our friend Mitzi and her boyfriend had rented a sprawling villa on the Costa Brava and there was lots of room. Dianne made it clear to her new man — let’s call him Motherfucking Freak, just to keep things accurate — that this was just a fun, breezy, easygoing vacation. They didn’t have to sleep in the same bed if they didn’t want. Motherfucking Freak could go off on his own and explore whenever he wanted — this was not a couple-y thing, and Dianne reminded him, as a single mother, she had saved up her money for a long time for this trip and just wanted to relax and have fun. Great, said Motherfucking Freak. He thought about it for a week or so and decided to take up Mitzi and Dianne on the offer.

The trouble started before they were even face to face. The airport taxi Dianne had ordered to go to the airport arrived early. Fearful about rush-hour traffic, she headed to Motherfucking Freak’s apartment about 10 minutes earlier than planned, and called him to say she was on her way. Motherfucking Freak that he is, he motherfucking freaked out, snapping at her that there was no way he could be ready in 10 minutes and barked at her to go to the airport without him. Dread filled Dianne as she tried to placate him by saying don’t worry about it, we’ll just wait for you.

When he finally climbed into the limousine, Motherfucking Freak glared at Dianne and snarled: “I cannot believe that on today of all days you would have the insensitivity to show up 15 minutes early.” Alarm bells, they were ringing, and they were ringing loud.

The following is a list of various humiliations and borderline abusive behaviour Motherfucking Freak subjected Dianne to in their week together. I only witnessed the last few; the Motherfucking weaselly Freak managed to remember to subject her to his asshattery largely in private until a spectacular public flameout at the end of the vacation:

1. On the flight to Spain, he had a near air-rage incident when the stewardess did not give him back four dollars in change right away for a beer he’d bought. A steward and two stewardesses had to command him to calm the fuck down. This was the first hour of an eight-hour flight.

2. Driving to the villa, he frequently snapped at Dianne as she negotiated a set of complicated instructions, eventually just refusing to follow her directions, insisting “this doesn’t make any sense” even though she was correctly negotiating the route. He frequently pulled over to ask people who spoke no English, and they managed to point him exactly where Dianne had tried to point him.

3. By the third day, he was insisting Dianne and him go off by themselves every day on various excursions that involved long car rides, separating her from us. When she complained one day that she simply wanted to lie on the spectacular beach at the foot of the mountain where their villa was located, he lay in bed with his head in his hands practically crying and accusing her of sabotaging his plans.

4. On another beach one day, he again accused Dianne of constantly second-guessing him when she asked him if the beach he wanted to hike to was sandy or rocky, because the surf was high and she wanted to body surf. His snarling was so intense, she actually cried.

5. By this point, Dianne was so sickened by his juvenile and controlling behaviour that she feigned illness so that she no longer had to sleep with him and began getting feisty. He wept in bed to her that night, saying: “Why aren’t you falling for me?? I want you to fall for me!!!” Dianne told him, politely, because that is Dianne’s way, to get a grip and examine his behaviour.

6. Increasingly pissed off that her holiday was being actively hijacked by Motherfucking Freak, Dianne informed him that on their last day in Spain, she intended to go shopping with me and Mitzi for a few hours in Barcelona for a girls-only afternoon since she had BARELY BEEN ALLOWED TO SPEND FIVE MINUTES WITH US. Motherfucking Freak once again motherfucking freaked out, whining and foot-stomping about how Dianne could spend as much time as she wanted with us in Toronto, so why did she have to see us now?? In Spain?? When he was here with her??? DING DING DING DING. Alarm bells in overdrive.

8. The argument continued off and on for three days, finally culminating in Motherfucking Freak shrieking in the ornate halls of Barcelona’s Hotel Colon: “How could you dump me like this in a strange city?” as Dianne shouted back: “We are not married! You are suffocating me! Grow the fuck up!” The rest of us witnessed this and saw the extreme crazy in his eyes. Mitzi took him aside and told him he was really out of line. Motherfucking Freak claimed he was upset because he’d lost his watch. Cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo.

By the next day, Motherfucking Freak was apologetic and claimed to be sickened by his behaviour. But sure enough, on the drive to the airport, he was once again hectoring Dianne for not knowing how to get to the airport, saying they were going in the wrong direction. They were not; Dianne even pointed to the jets in the sky that were heading towards the very spot the highway was leading them to. But he insisted on driving off the highway and getting them lost for an hour in a chaotic Barcelona neighbourhood. The tanned Dianne was ashen by the time they arrived at the airport with minutes to spare.

Let this be a cautionary tale, ladies and gents. Never, ever travel with someone you are only just getting to know. Today, Dianne’s cabal of wonderful girlfriends have supported and loved her, offering a long list of replies she should send to the Motherfucking Freak’s chilling “wasn’t that a fun time?” e-mail that arrived today only to result in paralyzing stomach cramps for poor Dianne.

The sunny and optimistic among us have pointed out to Dianne that even though her hard-earned, well-deserved vacation was essentially stolen by a man with serious mental health issues, she could be grateful for one thing: She got a preview of what any future relationship with him would entail. He was controlling, uptight, with a disturbingly short fuse and a vaguely abusive desire to want to isolate her from her friends no matter how she felt about it. In real time, it might have taken her months to see it plainly and many more months to get out of it. In expedited vacation time, she can now simply say: You wrecked my vacation, but you are not going to wreck my life. Please don’t call me again.

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